5 Questions for...Justin Steele, Director, Google.org Americas

February 24, 2020

Growing up, Justin Steele was "a sensitive, brainy kid" who spent a lot of time thinking about what he could do to improve people's lives. After earning an engineering degree from the University of Virginia, he received a master's in urban social policy and nonprofit management at Harvard and went to work in the nonprofit sector full-time. Since 2014, he has held senior positions with Google.org, where he's taken a lead role in the organization's work on inclusion, education, and economic opportunity.

PND recently spoke with Steele about Google.org, its efforts to develop AI tools for nonprofits, and what it is doing to address homelessness in the Bay Area.

JustinSteelePhilanthropy News Digest: What is Google.org, and how much does it award annually to nonprofits here in the United States and globally?

Justin Steele: Google.org is Google's philanthropic and charitable arm. We support nonprofits that are working to address challenging problems and try to apply scalable data-driven innovations in support of those efforts. What's unique about Google.org is that we were established when the company went public with a commitment of 1 percent of its equity and an ongoing commitment of 1 percent of its net profit for charity. Google.org is the biggest beneficiary of that 1 percent ongoing net-profit commitment, and we currently award more than $300 million in cash grants to nonprofits globally each year, roughly split 50/50 between the U.S. and internationally.

PND: Can any nonprofit apply for a grant?

JS: We are predominantly invite-only in our philanthropy, but we do have a model called the Impact Challenge where we invite nonprofits to participate by sending us their ideas. Sometimes the challenge is topic-based, sometimes it's based on geography.

In the U.S., we are currently running Impact Challenges in a number of geographies. We have a $10 million Impact Challenge open in the Bay Area and $1 million challenges open in Georgia, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Ohio. A panel of local experts who have influence in the states where the challenge is occurring help us narrow down the candidates. The panel chooses the finalists who receive funding, but we also open it up to a public vote. The People's Choice winners get extra funding at the end.

The state-level Impact Challenges change from year to year, although this is the third time we've run a challenge in the Bay Area, which is where we’re headquartered. Last year, we ran challenges in Illinois, Nevada, and Colorado, and we expect to launch new challenges in other states in 2020.

We also opened up the AI Impact Challenge globally in 2018 and 2019 for organizations that are working on interesting applications of artificial intelligence for social good.

PND: You and your colleagues recently issued a paper titled "Accelerating Social Good With Artificial Intelligence." What does AI have to do with social good? And can you give us an example of an AI-driven project that has delivered real results in terms of social good?

JS: AI is an emerging field. It's obviously transforming a lot of Google's tools, and we use it internally every day, which is why we call ourselves an AI-first company. But Google.org also wanted to make sure we're thinking through how AI can be used to solve some of our biggest social challenges. The AI Impact Challenge generated over twenty-six hundred applications from a hundred and nineteen countries, lots of them interesting, especially in the areas of the environment, conservation, and energy. If nothing else, it showed us that there are a lot of nonprofits and social enterprises eager to use AI tools in their work.

Google itself has used AI in its flood-forecasting tools, with interesting results, especially in places like India, which is prone to devastating and deadly flooding. We take historical data and look at areas that have been impacted by flooding in the past. Then we use real-time river-level data, take Google maps data with topography and elevation profiles, pump that into the models, and run thousands of simulations. Based on that information, we're able to issue alerts to warn people where and when flooding might occur.

We've also seen a number of AI-driven applications submitted through Impact Challenges focused on similar issues such as rainforest health and irrigation in Africa. One of our grantees — Thorn, a nonprofit in the U.S. that works to stop the trafficking of children — has seen particularly strong results. We gave them a $2.5 million grant and sent a team of five Googlers to work with them for six months to improve their models. The result was a spotlight tool that uses clustering algorithms to find victims faster. Every year, more than two hundred thousand escort ads are posted daily in the U.S. across different platforms. Because traffickers often move their victims across state lines, the same ads tend to pop up across different geographies. The algorithms we were able to develop with Thorn examine information in posts such as phone numbers, location, linguistic style, and image similarities. Using that information, law enforcement can triangulate the location of a trafficked person. Today, more than seven thousand law enforcement agencies in all fifty states and Canada are using the tool and have identified and located more than twenty-eight thousand trafficked individuals.

We're still in the early days, and the technology is developing rapidly. That's partly why we launched the Impact Challenges. We're curious and eager to help develop and train more nonprofits to use technology to advance their missions.

PND: Your background is in engineering. Has that training been helpful in terms of your role at Google?

JS: Google's obviously an engineering company, so it's definitely helpful to have that background. On a practical level, engineering helped me lose my fear of complexity. In college, I studied chemical engineering and did insanely difficult problems. That experience taught me how to break a problem into its component pieces and get down to first principles. You learn that you can break any problem into its component pieces and build back to the solution. I took a lot of that approach with me when I went to grad school and then when I started to work for nonprofits trying to understand the factors driving complex social problems.

For example, in criminal justice reform, where we've awarded $40 million over the last five years, we took a data-driven approach to finding solutions. We initially invested in a broad theory of change focused on advocacy and job creation and other things. But we ended up putting most of our resources into efforts to understand, from a data-science perspective, what's happening in policing, what's happening in sentencing, what's happening in jails and prisons.

For instance, the Vera Institute of Justice recently published a major report on rural incarceration. We gave them $5 million and sent an engineering team to help them build data tools that would help them understand what's happening in jails at the county level across the country. There are thousands of counties in the U.S., and it's really hard to get a handle, especially in real time, on what's happening there. One hypothesis was that incarceration was growing faster in rural counties than in urban areas, but it was unproven. With the resources and engineers we sent them, Vera was able to demonstrate that incarceration in rural areas is in fact increasing at a very significant rate while urban incarceration is actually decreasing. You see cities like New York trying to close its Rikers Island facility, but in rural areas the number of people who are being jailed is spiking. The opioid crisis is a significant driver of the increase. And the way our carceral system works, a lot of people end up being held in jail because they can't make bail. Parole violations are another significant driver of why people are incarcerated in rural areas. As I say, it's an emerging picture. But Vera's report is driving a lot of policy makers to think about what we, as a society, can do to address some of the challenges we're seeing in these areas.

PND: Last spring, Google.org awarded grants totaling $50 million to address homelessness and displacement in the Bay Area, while your parent company committed $1 billion to build affordable housing in the region — with other tech giants announcing similar pledges. Are efforts by private employers sufficient to solve the Bay Area's homelessness and affordable housing crises, or does a real solution lie elsewhere?

JS: I don't think there's a solution to housing in the Bay Area that's independent of the public sector. We see our role as a philanthropic entity supporting innovative ideas that the public sector might not be able to support in the short term. But if you want to solve it at the systemic level, it really requires partnerships with the public sector.

One example I can give is our work with Hamilton Families, a nonprofit based in San Francisco that works with homeless families. Back in 2014 they had an idea to partner with the San Francisco Unified School District to identify students who were experiencing homelessness or at risk of becoming homeless. Obviously, homelessness is really disruptive for kids who are trying to succeed in school. So SFUSD decided to create a rapid response team to prevent families from losing their homes and rehouse them when they did. We invested $1 million in that project, which helped lead to a 40 percent reduction in the average wait list for family shelters in the city. The City of San Francisco subsequently invested $4.5 million in the organization's Project Every Home, which was an outgrowth of its work with SFUSD. And there was an additional $20 million of private capital that eventually flowed in as well.

We know we're not going to solve this alone. But we do have flexible philanthropic resources we can use to take risks and look for things that might take longer to generate results. Plus, we can invest in innovation, create proof points to demonstrate outcomes, and then have the public sector and other private investors come in and fund some of those ideas.

As you noted, Google itself has committed $1 billion to address the problem, and those resources will help build twenty thousand additional housing units in the Bay Area. But we need more than twenty thousand. Again, that's why partnering with the public sector is critical.

As far as developing a more diverse workforce here at Google, I'm not sure we can go anywhere but up. I'm optimistic we'll have a more diverse workforce in ten years, but it's certainly not going to happen on its own.

One of the initiatives we announced a couple months ago with SFUSD Superintendent of Schools Tony Thurman was a $10 million rising STEM scholars initiative. With our partners, we did some research and found there were three thousand low-income students of color in the Bay Area who were qualified and capable of succeeding in advanced placement STEM courses but who were not currently enrolled in those courses. That's a huge missed opportunity for Google and other technology companies in the Bay Area. And that’s why we’re investing $10 million in five nonprofits that are working to identify those students, work with the schools directly to get those students into AP classes, support those classes with resources to make sure the schools are prepared to teach that content, and, maybe most importantly, invest in the teachers who teach those classes. A lot of times, students are interested in taking AP courses, but especially in the case of AP computer science, we find a dearth of qualified teachers who are credentialed to teach the subject at the high school level. In the first year, we piloted the initiative at sixteen schools, and we've already doubled the number of black and Latinx students in those schools taking AP STEM classes. So the next step is to scale that across the whole Bay Area.

So we're investing significantly in initiatives that are designed to strengthen the pipeline of local talent into places like Google. It's tough, and it's really tough to do it at scale. It's going to take a concerted effort. And it's going to take more than just Google. But we're confident that, working with others, including the public sector, we can figure it out and disrupt the status quo.

— Matt Sinclair

Frequently Asked Questions on Census 2020: Census Identities Still Confound

February 18, 2020

2020-census-logo-sliderEveryone in the United States plays a race or ethnic card at some point, or at least everyone who responds to the decennial census. Despite the scientific consensus that race is an artificial social construct, unmoored from biological reality, is there a box that best describes you?

Whether you plan to respond to the census online, in writing, or by telephone, one question you'll be asked to answer is how, racially speaking, you self-identify. What follows are answers to some frequently asked questions to help guide you through the process.

Q: What are the race and ethnic categories on the census form?

A: Your racial choices are: (1) White; (2) Black or African American; (3) American Indian or Alaskan Native; (4) Asian — with numerous boxes as subsets; and (5) Some other race. The questionnaire also asks separately if the respondent is "of Hispanic, Latino or Spanish origin," but instructs that "for this census, Hispanic origins are not races."

Q: What if I'm not White or Black? I'm Egyptian and my neighbor is from Iran. What are our options and who determines the categories?

A: You and your neighbor fall into what is called the MENA classification: Middle Eastern and North African. There was a proposal to add MENA to the 2020 form, but the Office of Management and Budget, which makes the assigned identity group determinations about the census, decided to keep the same basic categories that were on the 2010 census form.

Q: So, if I'm MENA, what box best describes me?

A: That's a personal choice. Many MENA residents, and others, end up checking "Some other race," the third-largest race category after White and Black or African American.

Q: But I thought Hispanics and Latinos were now the second-largest racial group in the United States. So how do you get "Some other race" as the third-largest group?

A: As far as the census is concerned, Hispanics and Latinos are ethnic classifications not racial classifications. Some will check the "White" box and some will check the "Black" box or write in "Afro Latino," for example, as an addition. Many will check the "Some other race" box. MENA respondents also frequently check the "Some other race" box as well. They don't see themselves as Black or White, and in most cases they are not of Hispanic or Latino origin.

Q: Have census categories changed over time?

A: Yes. Mulatto, octoroon or quadroon once were options on the census form used to describe African Americans of mixed heritage. One estimate calculates that 500,000 of these individuals checked the "White" box on the 1920 form. In later years, public pressure resulted in the OMB removing "Negro" as an option for American-born residents of African descent. The term still appeared on the 2010 decennial census, but on the 2020 form the choices are "Black" or "African American."

Q: What if I was born here, but my parents are from Africa?

A: There is a lot of subjectivity involved in making these choices. For some, Black has come to mean anyone who is a descendant of the African diaspora, regardless of where they were born or live. One Somali man, a longtime resident and U.S. citizen, married an American woman who identified as Black. When asked how he describes his U.S.-born children, he said, "Well, now that I think about it, I guess they are African American."

Q: What if I am of mixed heritage? My parents are African American, but I know some of their ancestors were from Europe. They were Irish, for example, Dutch or German. Other ancestors, we think, were Native American.

A: The questionnaire is set up so that you can "Mark one or more boxes AND print origins." We know America has had a complicated history, as more people are discovering through genomic testing. One adult census respondent recalls discouraging his mother, who identifies as Black, from checking every major race category box on the form.

Q: Why would it have mattered if she had? What difference does the box I check make or any information I may add?

A: For one, you have a better chance of "owning" who you are. Therefore, you are less likely to be misrepresented by a census employee who, without that information, would make a determination about your identity. So, in that sense, checking every box would be a more accurate contribution to understanding our country's history. Individual census data is sealed for seventy-two years, but in the future your descendants or distant relatives will be able to look you up by name on the census form you fill out in 2020. In fact, the census is among the primary tools genealogists and researchers use to trace family histories. You might also reflect on that first constitutionally mandated census in 1790. To achieve a political compromise, those held in bondage were counted only as three-fifths of a person and their names were not recorded on the census. Even as late as 1860, the last census before the Civil War, some owners reported the age and sex of their captives but not their names.

Q: But how does filling out the census or not filling out the census affect my immediate financial or economic condition?

A: For practical purposes, as a measure of population, census data is used to determine how the federal and state governments allocate funds and resources, in addition to determining the number of seats states get in the U.S. House of Representatives. Data can be a double-edged sword. Some data are critical to attempts to address structural disparities among within American society, but data also can be used as a guide to steer resources away from those deemed political adversaries. How and why data are used is an important conversation, but it's a different conversation from whether it's in your interest to respond to the census. However, unless you are clear about who you are by identity, you may be grouped with a different race than your preference. That was why the individual discouraged his mother from checking every box. He wanted to make sure that if there were resources linked to her identity, those resources would be allocated to and benefit the community with which she primarily identifies.

Khalil Abdullah is a writer for Ethnic Media Services.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 15-16, 2020)

February 16, 2020

Diamond princessOur weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Fundraising

Everything in the world of fundraising is based on relationships, or should be, right? Well, sort of, writes Vu Le on his Nonprofit AF blog. "[O]ur reliance on relationships is...problematic, as it often creates and enhances inequity and thus undermines many of the problems we as a sector are trying to address" — for example, by further marginalizing people and communities that don't have the same access to relationships as better-resourced communities and nonprofits, or by reinforcing our natural bias toward people who look, think, and act like us. 

Giving

On the Alliance magazine blog, Alisha Miranda, chief executive of I.G. advisors, considers the pros and cons of curated approaches to giving.

Grantmaking

PEAK Grantmaking has released a set of resources designed to help grantmakers operationalize the second of its five Principles for Peak Grantmaking: Narrow the Power Gap. Within that frame, the organization has three very specific recommendations: build strong and trusting relationships with your grantees; rightsize the grantmaking process and implement flexible practices that reduce the burden on your grantees; and structure grant awards to be more responsive to grantee needs. Elly Davis, a program manager at the organization, shares more here.

Health

Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA), whose "AmeriCare legislation, first introduced in 2006, would have provided every American with a basic level of health coverage, and is the framework for Medicare for All and other comprehensive health reform proposals being discussed today," passed away on January 24. The Commonwealth Fund remembers Stark, "a champion for health care access for all," on its Turning Point blog.

More than 98 percent of American births and 97 percent of births in Colorado take place in hospitals. And yet outcomes for mothers and babies are among the worst of any high-resource country, and outcomes for African American and Indigenous families look more like they do in much poorer countries. Kristin Jones, associate director of communications at the Colorado Trust, reports.

Nonprofits

On the Candid blog, Laurel Molloy, founder of and chief consultant at Innovations Quantified, offers a brief primer on the difference between a theory of change and a logic model. And India Pierce Lee, senior vice president for program at the Cleveland Foundation, shares details of and lessons learned from the Greater University Circle Initiative, a public-private partnership focused on lifting up the neighborhoods surrounding Cleveland's University Circle district — neighborhoods where more than half the residents are living in poverty and the median household income is less than $19,000 per year. 

February is the perfect time to reinforce, reestablish, and recommit to those big goals you dreamed about as the ball was dropping on New Year's Eve, writes Common Impact's Danielle Holly, before sharing five things you and your colleagues can do in 2020 to make sure you achieve them.

Philanthropy

Great interactive from the folks at the New York Times illustrating how Michael Bloomberg has used his philanthropy over the years to extend his "brand" and boost his influence.

"The philanthropic sector is stuck in old paradigms, and several common, critical issues are preventing [it] from making real and sustainable progress," writes Mike Wilson, deputy director of education grantmaking at Ascendium Education Group. Although philanthropy "is uniquely positioned to lift up disenfranchised populations, people of color, and underserved communities, and to help transform our nation into a stronger, more just, and more equitable society," he adds, "it must undergo serious self-examination and advance substantive change for [those goals] to be achieved."

Poverty

Rutger Bregman, the Dutch academic who caused a stir at Davos a few years back with his suggestion that billionaires should be taxed more — a lot more — than they are currently, shares a post on the Correspondent blog with a very simple thesis: poverty isn't caused by a lack of character; it's the result of a lack of cash.

Science/Tech

And in a new post on her blog, Beth Kanter reports from the Google Impact AI Summit, where human-centered design was a hot topic.

(Photo credit: AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

That's it for now. Drop us a line at Mitch.Nauffts@Candid.org if you have something you'd like to share.

50 Years of Southern Philanthropy

February 11, 2020

In November, I had the pleasure of speaking at SECF50, the 50th annual meeting of the Southeastern Council of Foundations. Using Candid data, I compared philanthropy in the South fifty years ago to philanthropy in the region today. Here are some of the key points I shared with the SECF50 audience.

Philanthropy has grown tenfold

Fig1.1_secf-growth

To put these findings together, I had the distinct, old-fashioned pleasure of turning to one of our earliest editions of the Foundation Directory (published in 1971), an actual book, to research the state of institutional philanthropy in the South at the time of SECF's founding. Information was a lot sketchier back then and we had to collect everything by hand, so our totals in 1969 are probably not as accurate as those we have today. Still, I believe it's safe to say philanthropy in the South has grown tenfold after inflation.

Back in 1969, only three states in the 11-state Southeastern region had more than 75 foundations of any size (Georgia, North Carolina, and Florida), and no state had more than 107. Now, there are more than 18,000 foundations across the region, and more than half are located in just two states: Florida (6,452) and North Carolina (3,139).

Asset distribution has changed

Fig.1.2_secf-assets-by-state-800w

In 1969, two-thirds of the region’s philanthropic assets were concentrated in Georgia and North Carolina (40 percent and 26 percent, respectively). Since then, assets have grown tremendously in Arkansas, Florida, and Virginia, changing the picture quite a bit. Arkansas held 1 percent of the region's assets in 1969; it now holds 7 percent. Florida went from 8 percent to 29 percent. And Virginia increased from 6 percent to 10 percent.

Foundation types have grown

Fig.1.3_secf-foundation-type-800w

Family foundations have dominated philanthropy in the South throughout the twenty-first century. As of 2017, family foundations accounted for more than 40 percent of all foundation giving in the SECF region, about the same as in 2003, which is the date from which we're able to track this kind of information.

At the same time, the South has also seen a great deal of growth in community foundations, with community foundation giving having grown faster than any other type of foundation giving since 2003, up more than 220 percent, while family foundation giving grew by more than 160 percent.

Philanthropy subject area has shifted

Fig.1.4_secf-subject-area-800w

As in the rest of the country, the two subject areas that receive the greatest amount of funding are education and health. Education received 30 percent of total giving in 2017, while health received 16 percent. These figures stand somewhat in contrast to national giving patterns in the two areas. At the national level, health received 30 percent of total giving, while education received 25 percent.

Giving for arts and culture, the environment, and education have increased relative to other topics since 2003, while there have been declines in the proportion of grantmaking for health, human services, philanthropy and nonprofit management, and religion.

Sources of philanthropy have remained the same

Fig.1.4_secf-average-grantmaking-800w

In 2003, Foundation Center (now Candid) found that about half of all foundation support for Southern recipients — some $927 million — came from foundations located outside the region, compared to $944 million coming from Southern grantmakers. The ratio has not changed much in fifteen years. In 2017, grantmakers outside the South provided $1.9 billion in funding, whereas Southern grantmakers made $2.1 billion in grants.

(For some fascinating insights on how the types of support provided by Southern grantmakers compare with those of grantmakers outside the region, see chapter two of Philanthropy as the South’s Passing Gear: Fulfilling the Promise, on the SECF website.)

There's more to learn

Fig.1.5_secf-timeline-800w

In honor of SECF’s 50th anniversary, Candid was  pleased to announce the launch of a new feature on the Southern Trends Report website, "A History of Philanthropy in the South." This timeline documents the important work of SECF since 1969 and the context in which that work took place.

What the data suggests about the future of Southern philanthropy

I'll close by mentioning a few trends in the field that appear to be gaining some traction, or at least generating a great deal of conversation.

  1. General operating support — I wouldn’t describe it as a major change yet, but our data shows Southern foundations are increasingly providing more funding for general operating support, which has grown from about 16 percent of total giving to about 19 percent in recent years.
  2. Democracy — If you aren't already familiar with it, I would encourage you to take a look at Foundation Funding for U.S. Democracy to see what kinds of work foundations are doing in this space. Foundations have a critical role to play here.
  3. Participatory grantmaking — Funders are increasingly engaging the communities they serve in the grantmaking process.
  4. Collaboration — This is where the promise of true impact lies. Use the laboratory for knowledge sharing and experimentation that SECF and similar associations provide to leverage your collective strength to make a difference.

Headshot_larry_mcgillLarry McGill is vice president of knowledge services at Candid. This post originally appeared on the Candid blog. To read more of his data-driven commentary, click here.

Weekend Link Roundup (February 8-9, 2020)

February 09, 2020

1203880819.jpg.0Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Economy

The stock market is up and inflation is muted. It's the story of the last ten years. Or is it? In The Atlantic, Annie Lowrey reports on the affordability crisis breaking the back of America's middle class.

Global Health

The novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, dominated headlines for much of the last week, leading to a spate of all-too-predictable scare stories and conspiracy theories. For a solid statistical breakdown of what is actually happening, in Wuhan and the twenty-seven other countries and territories in which the virus has been detected, check out this useful site created by the folks at World-o-Meter.

Grantwriting

On the Candid blog, Susan Schaefer, founding partner of Resource Partners LLC, looks at three of the core skills needed by a grant writing professional in 2020.

Health

More than fifty years after the civil rights movement changed the way Americans think about race, there is still much to do to reduce discrimination and increase health equity. On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Dwayne Proctor, a senior advisor to the foundation's president, reflects on the role of stories in the search for solutions.

International Affairs/Development

"For a private foundation engaged in global development, the quality of the partnership between the INGO and in-country partners is a fundamental determinant of whether and how dollars turn into results," writes Ruth Levine, formerly of the William and Hewlett Foundation and now a policy fellow at Stanford University, on the Center for Effective Philanthropy blog. "Unfortunately," she adds, "the nature of the relationship between an INGO and its local partners — whether good, bad, or just plain ugly — [often] goes unobserved by funders. It's time for that to change."

Nonprofits

In a new post on her Philanthropy 2173 blog, Lucy Bernholz shares a provocative thesis: changes in the news media landscape in the USA over the last fifteen years portends the future of nonprofit organizations in the country.

As part of their organizational development and nonprofit management courses, a lot of college professors ask students to interview a nonprofit leader or three and then have them develop a series of recommendations on how the organization can improve. Vu Le's advice to those professors. Don't.

Philanthropy

In the wake of the Supreme Court's recent decision to let stand the Trump administrations recent "public charge" immigration rules, writes NCRP's Stephanie Peng, philanthropy must ramp up its support for communities and organizations working on behalf of immigrants and against nativism and xenophobia.

In the first post of a new series on the Alliance blog, Cassie Robinson, head of the Digital Fund at the UK's National Lottery Community Fund, shares a video that considers the role philanthropy might play in forging a new social contract between civil society and big tech. (Click here for the second post in the series.)

On the HistPhil blog, Thomas Adam, associate director of the International and Global Studies Program at the University of Arkansas, reexamines the Tocquevillian idea that civil society only flourishes in democracies.

Private equity mogul Stephen A. Schwarzman, whose total compensation in 2017 ($785.68) and 2018 ($567.8 million), according to Bloomberg, exceeded $1.3 billion, has joined the Giving Pledge.

Regulation/Oversight

Even though they lack pews and parishioners, a growing number of tax-exempt faith-based groups are asking the IRS to recognize them as churches. And the IRS is complying. Samuel Brunson, professor of law at Loyola University Chicago, reports for the Conservation.

(Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

That's it for now. Drop us a line at Mitch.Nauffts@Candid.org if you have something you'd like to share.

Tips to Help Make Your Organization More Inclusive

February 07, 2020

Diversity_1Recruiting and retaining employees is a top priority and challenge for most organizations. But many fail to take even the basic steps needed to attract and retain candidates with diverse backgrounds and experiences. This is unfortunate, for many reasons, but especially because the benefits of diversity in the workplace are significant and numerous, and because research shows that the workforce of the future will be diverse.

Creating an inclusive organizational culture requires commitment. The goal should be to ensure that everyone in an organization feels welcome, valued, and supported. This is how you strengthen employee engagement and retention, and how you create a stage for teams that perform at a high level. On the flip side, organizational cultures that are not inclusive are more likely to experience negative outcomes in terms of employee satisfaction and retention, resulting in higher turnover rates and lower organizational performance.

Below are a few things you and your colleagues can do to create a more inclusive organizational culture. Note, however, that the suggestions are only a starting point. Building a truly inclusive culture requires deep commitment to change at every level of the organization as well as a willingness to model and sustain that change through shared values, the actions of leadership, and effective accountability mechanisms.

Highlight your organization's commitment to inclusivity. Make sure employees are aware of your organization's commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and any inclusive benefits it offers (e.g., parental leave or flexible work arrangements). Also be sure to include a robust equal opportunity statement highlighting your organization's commitment to diversity and inclusion in all job descriptions and on your website. Beyond those simple steps, make an effort to provide regular trainings to employees on DEI-focused topics and encourage them to work with diverse partners, vendors, contractors, etc.

Facilitate collaboration across the organization. In too many organizations, departments are "siloed" and rarely given the chance to share ideas with other departments and functions. In contrast, inclusive workplaces encourage organization-wide collaboration. Because different employees with different skill sets (e.g., accounting, HR, fundraising, marketing) tend to bring different (and often fresh) perspectives to the table, such collaborations represent a new and creative way to problem-solve. The key to inclusive collaboration is to ensure that voices and ideas from across the organization are solicited and considered. For instance, all-staff meetings where employees at every level of the organization are encouraged to participate (and acknowledged for their participation) can be an effective way to "walk the talk" when it comes to collaboration.

Pay attention to your job descriptions. In many cases, a job description is often a candidate's first exposure to your organizational culture and values. The way a position is scoped, the words used to describe the ideal candidate, and the information that is (and is not) included — all speak volumes about the organization to a prospective candidate (as well as current staff members). Here are a few tips on how to make the language in your job descriptions more inclusive:

  • Pay attention to gender pronouns. When crafting a job description (and other organizational communications), pay attention to both pronouns as well as "gender-coded" words. A growing number of progressively minded organizations are eliminating gendered pronouns altogether and using "they" instead of "he or she" or "s/he" in their job descriptions, newsletters, and emails. By avoiding gendered pronouns, you send a clear message to team members (and job candidates) that your organization is a place where LGBTQ+ employees and/or those who do not identify in a binary gender structure are welcome and supported.
  • Be mindful of word choice. Words matter. Whether you're holding a staff meeting, recruiting a new candidate, or tapping an employee for a promotion or new project, focus on avoiding gender-coded words or words that are biased toward a specific gender. Words and phrases that many hear as male-gendered include "rock star," "home run," "guru," "competitive," and "dominant." Words that many hear as female-gendered include "collaborative," "patient," and "supportive." Research shows that such words and phrases really do influence whether people feel comfortable in a workplace and often are a significant factor in whether they even apply for a job, vie for a promotion, or ask to work on a special project.
  • Celebrate the capacity to grow. Make it clear that your organization welcomes employees who have the requisite skills for a position AND the capacity to learn and grow. Then back it up with professional development and training opportunities. Encourage employees to take classes, participate in webinars, and work with mentors. Organizations that are dedicated to growing their employees and offer them opportunities for advancement are more likely to attract diverse people from underrepresented groups, retain those employees, and deliver more successful outcomes overall.

By committing to diversity and inclusion, your organization will position itself to reap a variety of benefits, including higher employee morale, loyalty, retention, and productivity. The above tips should help as you begin the journey to building a more welcoming culture centered around diversity, inclusion, creativity, and teamwork.

Have a tip of your own you'd like to share? We'd love to hear it!

Headshot_Molly_BrennanMolly Brennan is founding partner at executive search firm Koya Leadership Partners, which is guided by the belief that the right person at the right place can change the world. A frequent contributor to Philanthropy News Digest and other publications, Brennan recently authored The Governance Gap: Examining Diversity and Equity on Nonprofit Boards of Directors.

5 Questions for...Bernie Michael, President and CEO, Center for Jewish History

February 05, 2020

"Never forget."

For Holocaust survivors who gathered on Monday in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Poland, to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of the infamous Nazi concentration and death camp, the horrors of World War II will never be forgotten. But as the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles — at Monday’s ceremony, there were two hundred survivors in attendance, compared to the fifteen hundred who attended ceremonies marking the sixtieth anniversary of the camp’s liberation in 1945 — and with anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews once again capturing headlines in Europe and the United States, the two-word admonition has assumed fresh meaning and significance.

At the Center for Jewish History in New York City, the past, five thousand years of the Jewish past, is very much alive. Established twenty years ago and celebrating its twentieth anniversary in 2020, the center is a place where scholars, researchers, graduate fellows, high school students, and others gather to do research, attend seminars and symposia, and celebrate the remarkable achievements of the Jewish people.

PND recently spoke with Bernie Michael, the center’s president and CEO, about the organization’s mission and collections, history as story, and the reasons why he remains an optimist.

Headshot_bernie_michaelPhilanthropy News Digest: Tell us about the Center for Jewish History. When was it established, what is its mission, and what does it do to advance that mission?

Bernie Michael: The Center for Jewish History is located in Manhattan on 16th Street off of Fifth Avenue. We are home to five partner organizations — the American Jewish Historical Society, which was established in the 1890s to foster an appreciation of American Jewish heritage and which has a huge archive of materials relating to American Jewish history; the American Sephardi Federation, which preserves and promotes the history, traditions, and culture of Jews from Sephardic lands; the Leo Baeck Institute, a research library and archive focused on the history of German-speaking Jews; the Yeshiva University Museum, which, unlike our other partners, is more of a traditional museum in the sense that it has artworks and three-dimensional objects; and the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, which was established in the 1920s and focuses on the history and culture of Eastern European Jews and Yiddish-speaking people.

The center brings all these organizations together under one roof, and we also have our own archives and mount our own exhibitions and offer our own programming. It's a place, really, for people to learn about the history of the Jewish people and all of its many different aspects.

PND: For a lot of Americans, history is little more than a dry recitation of dates, names, and long-forgotten events. What are they missing?

BM: History starts with dates and names and facts, and making sure all that is verified and correct is important. But what's really important about history is that it tells a story, and it's the job of historians to bring those stories to life. The ideas that make history important are almost always animated by individuals, and the individuals that history remembers usually are embedded in a fascinating story. Historians take those stories and connect them to the present. That's what we do here at the center. How do all those stories in our archives reflect who we are today, and what can they tell us about where we might be headed?

PND: Does the center have a crown jewel?

BM: That’s a tough one. We have five miles of archival material on site in fifty different languages going back some five thousand years. To single out any part of those archives above the others would be difficult, if not impossible. But, you know, at different times, different pieces in our collections speak to me, and I think that says about as much about the collections as it does about me, and where I am in my life, and where we are in the world.

Right now, the thing that is in my mind a lot is also one of the more important objects in our collections, which is an original, handwritten copy of the poem "The New Colossus," by Emma Lazarus. In it, Lazarus champions the idea of America as a refuge for the downtrodden with her famous line "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." These days, understanding the history of immigration in this country is important to understanding who we are as a nation and how we got here.

PND: In October, we marked the first anniversary of the horrific mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, a painful reminder that anti-Semitism is alive and well, here in the United States and in many other countries. To what do you attribute that troubling development?

BM: Well, it is a troubling development, and many people see a connection between the reemergence of anti-Semitism and the illiberal pushback against democracies happening around the world. I agree with them and think both are part of the same phenomenon. It’s a characteristic of anti-Semitism that it tries to frame the Jew as "the Other," a person who is outside the "nation," who doesn't belong. And, of course, democracy is about inclusion, minority rights, extending the franchise, and making sure all people are included and protected. In contrast, wherever illiberalism and anti-democratic sentiment have been embraced, we also see a rise in anti-Semitism.

It's an important connection to make, because until we have a clear understanding of the root causes of anti-Semitism — and there are many — we can't begin to know how to address it and try to put a stop it. The importance of this can't be overestimated, and what we as a center for Jewish history can do is, first and foremost, try and look at the problem and understand it for what it is. Some people think the problem is nothing more than people not understanding who Jews are, what their history is, and how they've been demonized. I'm not sure that's true, because if it were true then our job would simply be to get the facts about Jews and Jewish life out there. But I don't know if that's really the solution. I think the problem has got to be attacked on many fronts, not least of which is looking at what the remedies for anti-Semitism might be. What we do here is provide a place for discussion — a place for politicians, scholars, researchers, archivists to look at how anti-Semitism has waxed and waned over the decades and try and understand where things stand in the world today so that people don’t overreact or underreact.

The other thing we do here is contextualize anti-Semitism in terms of what it means for the Jewish people. We are a people with a long and storied history, and we have experienced absolutely dark, terrible periods over that long history. But there are so many wonderful parts of Jewish history, as well. And an important part of what we do here, as opposed to, say, what other museums focused on our darkest periods, like the Holocaust, do — as important as those museums are — is to focus on the entire history of the Jewish people, both the bad and the good.

PND: I recently came across an interview in which the inter­viewer drew a distinction between optimism and hopeful­ness. Is that a useful distinction?

BM: I've been accused of being an optimist, and I won't deny it. For me, optimism is a way of being in the world. You either are one or you're not; it's in your DNA. Hopefulness, to me, is more strategic. I have a plan, I want to get something accomplished, and I'm hopeful I can get it done. And you know what? Sometimes you don't. But if you're an optimist, your optimism remains intact.

Let me give you an example. You asked about the crown jewel of the collections here at the center. Well, maybe it's not a crown jewel, but one of my personal favorites is a Juicy Fruit gum wrapper, and I'll tell you why I love it. Back before the Soviet Union collapsed, and before Jews were allowed to emigrate from the Soviet Union in significant numbers, non-Soviet Jews traveling to the Soviet Union often would be asked to sneak a message in with them. "I want to get a message to my grandmother in Minsk. I can talk to her, but we have to be careful, and I can't send her a letter, for obvious reasons. Would you mind sneaking in a little message?" So the sister or granddaughter or whomever would buy a package of gum — for some reason, it always seemed to be Juicy Fruit — and when she got home would carefully open the package, take out a piece of gum, unwrap it, and on the inside of the wrapper, in tiny handwriting, write a message telling her sister, say, how much she missed her, how the family outside the Soviet Union was doing, all the little chit-chat and gossip that weaves families together. And when she was done, she would take the wrapper, re-wrap the piece of gum, re-seal the package, and off it would go with the person traveling to the Soviet Union, at no small risk, I might add, to that person. If you got caught, you were in serious trouble. And these packages of gum with their secret messages inside would go back and forth from families both outside and inside the Soviet Union. And I just find that to be wonderful and moving.

A small thing, perhaps, in the larger scheme of the Soviet Jewry movement. But on a very human scale it shows you how, even when faced with adversity, even when oppressed, people don't give up, they make plans, they buy their packages of gum and look to the future. And the moral of the story is that you can and should be hopeful about your individual plans, even knowing that sometimes they will not work out. But at the end of the day it's absolutely critical that you remain optimistic. I remain optimistic. Things will get better; I believe that. And those gum wrappers are there to remind me why.

— Mitch Nauffts

Addressing Student Debt Through Philanthropy

February 04, 2020

GettyImages-1042539442_student_debt_piggybankIn an age of mega-donors and flashy facilities, higher education philanthropy increasingly is about bigness. Philanthropists and foundations scramble to put their names on buildings, endow chairs in popular departments, and fund the next scientific breakthrough.

Investing in higher education often is a great use of philanthropic dollars. But high-dollar gifts aren’t the only big figures in higher education. These days, too many college students are burdened by the millstone of unconscionable debt. Indeed, as we begin a new decade, cumulative student debt in the United States has reached $1.6 trillion.

And debt is not the only financial challenge college students face. Once you factor in the supplementary or "incidental" costs of attending college, today's college students face a kind of death by a thousand cuts. Textbook costs are up 87 percent since 2006 — more than any other college-related expense. The cost of essentials like laptops, transportation, and living expenses often outstrip students' ability to meet them. Students are encouraged to prepare for the real world after graduation by taking low- or unpaid summer internships — another expense many simply cannot afford. As higher ed technology and course software changes, the costs add up.

Expenses like these are no big deal for students from affluent backgrounds, but for those from low- and middle-income families, and especially for first-generation students, they can be a major obstacle to college completion.

Recently I made a gift to my alma mater, Ursinus College, targeting what I see as an urgent issue within higher education. Tucked away in Collegeville, Pennsylvania, Ursinus has been educating students for a hundred and fifty years, preparing them for careers in business, civic life, service, the arts, and sciences. The liberal arts model is alive and well at Ursinus, but it is not immune to the cost-creep affecting higher education nationwide.

The gift will be used to expand Ursinus's Abele Scholars program, which is open to promising students from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Maryland. The program provides each young scholar with $53,000 in funding to cover tuition, provide debt relief, and, more specifically, help them deal with the barrage of incidental expenses they will encounter over their college career. Abele Scholars do not have to worry about $200 textbooks. They start school with a brand-new laptop. They can accept a summer internship, however little it  pays, with the same confidence as their peers from wealthier backgrounds.

Taking care of these expenses allows Abele Scholars to use their time and energy to build their social capital and form professional connections, which are just as valuable upon graduation as academic experience.

At a time where nearly every avenue of American life has become more expensive, we have to do something about the cost of college — not only in the months and years after students after graduate, but throughout the entire college experience. I hope my gift challenges and encourages other alumni to think about the costs today's college students face, to donate to their alma maters in a similar fashion, and, more generally, to think creatively about how they can pay forward the rewards they have received from their own education.

Headshot_Will_Abele_for_PhilanTopicWill Abele is a 1961 graduate of Ursinus College, a member of the college's board of trustees, and chairman of the Abele Family Foundation. Before retiring, Abele was the owner and president of Henry Troemner LLC, a manufacturer of precision weights and laboratory equipment. Through his foundation, he and wife Joan gave $11 million — the largest gift in the school's history — in January in support of the Abele Scholars Program, which they established with an earlier gift in 2018.

Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts (January 2020)

February 02, 2020

Novel-coronavirusA verdict in the impeachment trial of Donald J. Trump, the growing threat of a global coronavirus pandemic, and the much-anticipated results of the Iowa caucuses — there'll be no shortage of news or headlines to track in the week ahead. But before we turn the page on January 2020 (already?), we thought we'd take a last look at the most popular posts on the blog in the month just passed. Be safe out there.

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We want to hear from you! Drop us a note at Mitch.Naufts@Candid.org.

When Numbers Fall Short: The Challenge of Measuring Diversity in a Global Context

January 31, 2020

Hands-Tree-Diversity-editAt the C&A Foundation we believe many of the challenges we seek to tackle are rooted in social exclusion. We are on a journey to deepen our approach to gender justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion. As part of our own effort to learn, we recently undertook a demographic survey of our sixty-plus employees worldwide to find out how "diverse" we are as an organization and what it might imply for our efforts to create an equitable organization. It was a first for us and we learned far more than the numbers alone reveal.

The process itself was both eye-opening and humbling. It forced us to reflect on what really matters for our global organization when it comes to diversity and it underscored some of our own implicit biases.

We worked with U.S.-based consultants to prepare the survey — which covered age, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, disability, race, religion, and educational status. Unknowingly, the very act of selecting these categories imposed a U.S.-centric world view, particularly with respect to our understanding of race and ethnicity.

For example, the category "Latinx" was used in the initial survey; this category is very relevant in the U.S., but reductive in Latin America, confusing in Europe, and irrelevant in South Asia. An important category for Europe — Roma — was not available for selection.

So we tried again, re-surveying our country offices in an attempt to create meaningful country-specific data. This proved far more useful in revealing what we should be considering as we seek to foster an inclusive workplace culture.

In Brazil, for example, race is a very salient concept, and we are developing a much stronger understanding of why power dynamics around race may be the single most important thing we can address in that context. Less than half the Brazilian population is white — yet political and economic structures in Brazil are predominantly controlled by whites.

In Mexico, we need to consider the significant proportion of Indigenous people and "mestizos" (mixed ethnicity). Although Mexicans of European descent are the minority there, they too remain a dominant political and economic class. In India, race itself is a problematic construct. Instead, caste discrimination has for centuries played a powerful role in reinforcing social group dominance and oppression. A dizzying array of ethno-linguistic groups suggests diversity but masks the real and sometimes violent social exclusion based on caste and religion. While historically disadvantaged "scheduled" castes and tribes make up around 25 percent of India's population, they are significantly underrepresented in the country's economic life.

Across South Asia, religion is a political and social flashpoint. This applies to Bangladesh, a majority Muslim country where Hindus and Christians face increasing sectarian violence, as well as India, where, as recent events show, laws and policies excluding Muslims reflect rising Hindu nationalism.

Since the C&A Foundation always aims to be open and transparent, it is our practice to openly share what we learn from our research, and this exercise was no exception. However, given the importance of country and cultural context, in the end the only demographic categories we felt were appropriate to include in our annual report were gender, disability, and migration status. Age is another context-neutral category we might report on globally in the future. But for our sixty staff people spread across the world, we realized that inclusive hiring, promotion, and retention policies needed to do more than just look at the numbers, even for these categories.

So what did we learn, and what do we recommend other foundations undertaking similar surveys do?

First, generic global surveys aren't the best way to tackle region-specific diversity and inclusion challenges. Instead, start with a social inclusion assessment that looks at the local context. Who has power? Who is marginalized? From there you can craft context-specific demographic questions for your employees and/or partners.

Lesson two: Don't just play the numbers game. With, at most, a dozen staff in any given country office, we found there is limited value in trying to add them all up to some global statistic on diversity. However, it is important to look at who's not present in your workplace. For example, in Brazil, we've taken affirmative steps to recruit more Afro-Brazilians by hiring a consultancy that specializes in placing Afro-Brazilian professionals. And we are looking carefully at how to create more inclusive workplaces for people with disabilities across all our country offices. For us, this kind of targeting does more to address diversity than a broad-brush effort.

Lastly, another value of this approach is that you'll be seen to be leading by example by your grantees when you ask them (as you are likely to at some point) to provide you with their demographic data. Just as we understand the limitations with respect to what we can do with this data, we also must understand and respect the variety of approaches that our grantees may use to tackle their own diversity, equity, and inclusion challenges. At the C&A Foundation, we see our efforts to address inequality as another means to encourage our local grantees to prioritize and embrace their own equity and inclusion agendas. This is where our broader influence may lie — and it is a further compelling reason why we plan to continue our own internal journey.

Headshot_Bama_AthreyaBama Athreya is the gender and social inclusion advisor at the C&A Foundation, a corporate foundation committed to making fashion a force for good. In 2020, the C&A Foundation's work in fashion will become part of the Laudes Foundation — a new, independent foundation designed to support brave initiatives that inspire and challenge industry to harness its power for good. The foundation is part of the Brenninkmeijer family enterprise, which includes the COFRA businesses and the family’s private philanthropic activities, among them Porticus, the Good Energies Foundation, and the Argidius Foundation.
This post originally was published on Transparency Talk, the Glasspockets blog.

Looking Back on the Quest to Eliminate Trachoma

January 30, 2020

Recovered_trachoma_patient_Martin_Kharumwa_orbis_internationalThere are some patients you never forget — not because they are famous, but because of the story they have to tell and the everlasting impression it makes on you. 

In 1997, I was traveling through Africa as a young medical student and volunteer, teaching eye care staff at local clinics how to maintain microsurgical instruments and make some standard medical supplies themselves. I ended up joining the outreach project of an eye clinic I was visiting in the Jimma Zone of Ethiopia. One day while I was at the clinic, an older woman walked in. She explained to us that she had been blind for several years, but now, every morning when she woke up, she had to put margarine under her eyelid because, otherwise, she experienced unbearable pain every time she blinked.

I recall my brain working overtime in that moment but drawing a complete blank. This wasn't a common complaint I had experienced in clinics or something I had learned from my professors — it was something else. We examined the woman's eye. Her eyelid had completely turned in on itself, and her eyelashes were scratching her eyeball. The resulting damage and infections of the cornea and eyeball had caused her to go completely blind, but the agonizing pain caused by the scratching eyelashes remained. 

At that point, as a medical student trained in Europe, I was still clueless about what could have caused an infection with damage so painful that the patient had to resort to margarine for relief. The ophthalmologist running the clinic said nonchalantly, "Trichiasis due to trachoma. This is the end stage — nothing we can do anymore."

When the ophthalmologist saw my raised eyebrow and querulous expression, he explained that the cause was a bacterial infection of the inside of the upper eyelid that creates little blisters, which then heal into small scars. With repeated infections, the number of scars created becomes so great that they make the eyelid turn in on itself and cause the eyelashes to scratch the cornea — a condition known as trichiasis — ultimately resulting in blindness. In its early stages, the condition is easy to treat, but once the patient is blind, nothing can be done. 

Trachoma — the most common infectious cause of blindness globally — is estimated to affect more than 2.5 million people, according to a recent report from the World Health Organization. Women, particularly in low-income countries, are more susceptible to infection than men; this may be because, as primary caregivers in home settings, they have greater contact with children. The burden of trachoma is particularly high in Ethiopia and its Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples' Region (SNNPR) districts.

Because of what I saw in that clinic, as well as several similar experiences, my career took a different path. Instead of pursuing my dream of becoming an ophthalmologist, I decided to focus on public health ophthalmology, starting as regional coordinator for Africa for Trachoma and River Blindness for Helen Keller International. In that role, I worked to implement WHO's SAFE strategy for eliminating trachoma: Surgery to correct trichiasis, Antibiotics to treat infection, and Facial cleanliness and Environmental improvements to limit transmission of infection.

Through that work, I learned that some of the most effective interventions for fighting the disease, while relatively straightforward, yield tremendous impact. Actions such as improving hygiene practices so that children's faces are kept clean, thus reducing the disease-spreading discharge from their eyes, or administering cost-effective antibiotics at the first sign of infection, can make all the difference in preventing the loss of sight. Other proven interventions, such as improving access to surgery for trichiasis and to safe water for face-washing, are more complex to implement, underscoring the need for continued investment.

When I served as director of the International Trachoma Initiative, we launched the Trachoma Atlas to help our teams and others map the spread of the disease and determine how best to target prevention efforts. It was daunting to see the number of districts in which trachoma was endemic (or suspected to be) at the time. But working together as a community, it has been nothing less than astonishing to track the changes in prevalence on the maps over time and see the impact we have made. Indeed, collaborations across the global eye health sector have led to an astounding 91 percent reduction in the number of people at risk of trachoma around the world since 2002.

Orbis International has been working in Ethiopia for more than twenty years. In fact, our Addis Ababa office was our first program office outside the United States and represented a major step toward building a sustainable legacy of quality eye care at the community level — a goal that continues to drive our work every day. Our efforts in SNNPR to date have resulted in the elimination of trachoma in six districts, with another six districts showing significant decreases. And last year, we were able to increase our support to ensure that all districts in SNNPR are covered by the SAFE strategy.

For more than two decades, the elimination of trachoma has been a major part of my life. I look back to where we were when I started on this journey and where we are today, and know that while there's still much more to be done, stories like the one told by the trachoma-affected Ethiopian woman who used margarine to treat her pain will soon be relegated to the medical history books.

Headshot_danny_haddad_orbis_for_PhilanTopicDanny Haddad, MD, is chief of programs at Orbis International, a global nonprofit that has been transforming lives through the prevention and treatment of avoidable blindness for nearly four decades. With a network of partners, Orbis mentors, trains, and inspires  local eye care teams — from health workers in rural clinics to eye surgeons in urban centers — to work together to save and restore vision, ensuring that no one has to face a life of avoidable blindness.

(Photo credit: Martin Kharumwa/Orbis International)

Nostalgia and Social Change

January 29, 2020

Time-machineRecently, I put my finger on a social sector trend that's been lodged in my brain but that I was having a hard time articulating: call it nostalgia.

Let me give you an example.

In many of the conversations I've had over the last year or two, people usually express a clear interest in changing how we engage with social issues and causes. They want to see Americans give more, volunteer more, vote more, or otherwise be more civically engaged, and they have certain expectations about what that looks like and how it should happen.

In many of these conversations, the person I’m speaking with often "benchmarks" the change they'd like to see, and that benchmark often references the past, as in "Derrick, Americans used to give more," or "Derrick, Americans used to know more about the way our political system works." They often cite statistics to back up their point and then will say, in so many words, "We need to return to…" and will launch into a narrative about a time when "we were less polarized as a country," when "people were more willing to help a stranger in need," when there was no "us and them, only we."

Now, it's not my job to argue with people and point out where they might need to rethink some of their ways of looking at things, and I'm not going to do that here.

Instead, I'll share what I often say at this point in those conversations:

Continue reading »

Weekend Link Roundup (January 25-26, 2020)

January 26, 2020

Trump_Impeachment___Roberts.7Our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Fundraising

It's the end of the world as we know it...and most of us feel fine. "Starting this year," writes Jeff Brooks on his Future Fundraising Now blog, "there will be no new Boomers entering the most-likely-to-donate stage of life. Now, they can only leave that stage...the hard way."

Giving

Did you get a few fundraising solicitations over the holidays? Looking for a way to cut back on all the mail/email you receive from charities at the end of the year? Charity Navigator's Kevin Scally and Ashley Post share a few tips designed to help you regain control of your mailboxes.

Health

Writing on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Dolores Acevedo-Garcia, professor and director of the Institute for Child, Youth and Family Policy at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University, looks at how the latest iteration of the Child Opportunity Index, which she and her team at Brandeis first developed in 2014, can be used to help researchers and policy makers understand how children are growing up today in any neighborhood in the United States.

On the Commonwealth Fund's To the Point blog, Los Angeles Times reporter Noam Levey movingly describes the "lightbulb" moment that happens for people who experience a strong, patient-centered health system.

Continue reading »

Losing the Red Cross Would Be the Real Disaster

January 23, 2020

Red cross(Ed note: this post originally was published on PhilanTopic in November 2014 and is being republished as criticism of the Australian Red Cross for allegedly holding back donations for bushfire victims mounts.) 

As a disaster researcher and scholar of nonprofit management, I've followed the (well publicized) travails and (hardly publicized) successes of the American Red Cross over the years.

I've met its national staff at research conferences and local staff at state and county emergency management meetings, where I've served on the board of my local Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD). I participated with hundreds of other invited experts in the governance audit that resulted in the "American National Red Cross Governance Modernization Act of 2007." I’ve monitored the commentary after a ProPublica/National Public Radio exposé of the Red Cross appeared last week. And based on my observations, I have developed a healthy respect and sympathy for the Red Cross.

Bet you didn't see that coming.

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Marketing Tech for Nonprofits: A Refresher Course for 2020

January 20, 2020

SocialNetworkIconsTeaserAs we start a new year, marketing has never been more important for nonprofits. And when it comes to growing and expanding your audience, your nonprofit needs the right digital marketing strategy if wants to make progress.

Unfortunately, too many nonprofits struggle to maximize the impact of their marketing efforts c and often it's because those efforts are an incoherent, unfocused mess. An effective digital marketing strategy should accomplish some, if not all, of the following:

  • reach new audiences that support your mission
  • convert more website visitors and/or supporters into donors
  • convince your existing donors to continue their support
  • support other goals such as boosting registrations, securing recurring donations, and obtaining signatures for petitions

Perhaps most importantly, your digital marketing strategy should aim to "make your donor an action hero" (as fundraising consultant Claire Axelrad puts it) by centering his or her experience in your organization's broader work. Donor- and constituent-centric messaging can be extremely effective in motivating support and keeping audiences engaged with your mission. And the best way to ensure it does is to have a clear game plan at the start of the year and/or before each campaign is launched.

Ready to get started? Let's begin with a quick review of some of the marketing tools at your disposal and then look at hot they fit together.

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Five Things Your Agency Can Do to Deliver Results for Families

January 17, 2020

Sykes_foundation_whole_familyIndividuals are whole people made up of a rich mix of physical, intellectual, social, emotional, and spiritual parts. Individuals exist within families, and families are the heart of our communities. In many ways, working families earning low wages are the backbone of our country, working the jobs that keep America running.

But many American families are struggling. Despite an uptick in the economy, more than 8.5 million children currently live in poverty, and they are often concentrated in neighborhoods where at least a third of all families live in poverty. Others are just a paycheck away from falling into poverty. For these families, a simple change in circumstance for a family member — a reduction in working hours, an illness, even the need for a car repair — affects the entire family's long-term well-being.

At Ascend at the Aspen Institute and the Pascale Sykes Foundation, we collaborate with families, nonprofits, government agencies, advocacy groups, and others to advance family well-being through a whole family or two-generation (2Gen) approach. Such an approach addresses challenges through the lens of whole people living in intact families, equipping children and the adults in their lives with the tools to collectively set and achieve goals, strengthen relationships with each other, and establish the stability of the family unit so that every member is able to reach his or her full potential.

In our work every day, we see the many meaningful ways in which a whole family approach benefits families and creates opportunities for service organizations to reach vulnerable populations, scale their work, and fulfill their missions. Here are five things your agency can do to shape its work in ways that will benefit families and support family members as they define, create, and realize the futures of which they dream.

Continue reading »

Reimagining Power Dynamics From Within: How Foundations Can Support Child and Youth Participation

January 16, 2020

Youth_climate_activists_350orgInvolving children and young people in our work — as grantees, consultants, researchers, and/or key informants — helps support their right to shape how the issues that affect their lives are addressed and makes our work as funders more impactful. Philanthropies should consider the right to participation — a key right in democracies — an important aspect of their Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) efforts.

The climate movement, for instance, has been very successful in drawing critical attention to the power of children and young people to organize and pressure governments to take action on an issue of urgent concern to them. Other examples include mobilizing support for the Sustainable Development Goals, gun violence prevention, and the rights of working children.

If, as funders, we are committed to supporting young climate activists at the local, national, and international levels, we also need to create spaces within our organizations for them to influence our thinking and ways of working. At the Open Society Foundations, the Youth Exchange team strategy refers to this as "modeling behavior," a form of "prefigurative politics": creating, here and now, in our organizational practices, the change we want to see more generally in society. While many in the philanthropic space already support young activists and guidelines already exist as to how to provide financial and non-financial support to child and youth organizers and child- and youth-led organizations, there are many others who wonder how they can do that.

The Open Society Youth Exchange team thought the start of a new year would be a good time to share some best practices — drawn from our own experiences as well as literature in the field — with respect to engaging children and young people in donor spaces and conversations and giving them the space to tell us how best to support their movements generally and the climate movement more specifically.

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Looking to Africa's Future: The Promise of Transnational Ties

January 14, 2020

African_gradNearly seven years ago, when I became president of Yale University, five of the top twelve — and eleven of the top twenty — of the world's fastest growing economies were in Africa, even though the continent faced serious challenges. Amid discussions of sobering events and hopes for the future, Yale took a stand for the promise of education, scholarship, and research — a promise that is particularly significant across Africa, home to a vibrant and growing population of young people. That year, 2013, I launched the Yale Africa Initiative as a way to create new partnerships between Yale and institutions on the continent. 

Africa's economic development remains impressive, but even more spectacular is the growth and promise of its youth. The continent's youth population is expected to increase by 522 million over the next three decades, while in the rest of the world, over the same period, it will decline by 220 million. By 2050, one-third of people on the planet age twenty-four or younger will call the continent home. As they come of age, these young people will take their place among the world's leaders and innovators — meaning we all have an interest in Africa's future.

As a university professor, I am focused on higher education, though primary and secondary education are, of course, critical. Higher education is essential to economic growth, and it also delivers a broad range of benefits, including progress toward gender equality, improvements in individual and public health, strengthened civic  institutions, and enhanced creativity and skills among those who serve society. 
 

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How Philanthropy Can Benefit From Tapping Into Instagram Communities

January 13, 2020

Instagram_logoJudging from media coverage and online conversations, it's clear we're living in a time of heightened social consciousness ("wokeness"). Whether that sentiment is driven by genuine concern for the fate of the planet and the welfare of others or a simple desire to be part of a collective is unimportant: people being willing to live less selfishly is a good thing.

That said, changing attitudes and ways of seeing the world don't automatically translate into economic or cultural impact. If we hope to drive meaningful action and change the world, this emerging way of seeing things needs to be broadened, deepened, and communicated as widely as possible. And the key to all that is social media.

When you strike the right tone and activate the right influencers, social media can transform a disparate group of strangers into a unified force for good. And if you were asked to pick one social media platform to focus your organization's resources on, it would have to be Instagram. While the image-friendly platform doesn't have the broad reach of Facebook, it's a powerful platform in its own right and has been growing in popularity, especially among millennials and their younger siblings.

Intrigued? Here are some things to keep in mind as your organization starts to think about using  Instagram to bolster its social-change efforts:

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Few Large U.S. Foundations Changed Giving Priorities After 2016 Presidential Election

January 07, 2020

White_HouseIn early 2019, Candid asked 645 of the largest U.S. foundations whether they had changed their funding priorities in 2017 and 2018 as a result of the 2016 presidential election. The vast majority (88 percent) of the respondents said their organizations made "few or no changes" to their giving priorities during the two years following the election. About one in eight (12 percent) reported making "some notable changes."

These results differ slightly from a similar survey conducted by Exponent Philanthropy in early 2017. Nearly one-quarter of the participants in that survey — foundations with few or no staff, philanthropic families, and individual donors — said they expected to make some changes to their philanthropic giving as a direct result of Donald Trump's election.

Not surprisingly, foundations reporting "few or no changes to their giving priorities" in Candid’s 2019 survey felt little need to further explain why this was the case.  "Staying the course" was a common refrain.

Foundations that reported making "some notable changes" identified five causes in particular for which they felt additional support was needed, given shifts in the political environment: 1) immigration, 2) civic engagement/democracy, 3) equity/social justice/intolerance, 4) the environment, and 5) health care. In some cases, foundations also established "rapid response" funds to help grantees that might be facing new or urgent challenges in carrying out their work.

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Weekend Link Roundup (January 4-5, 2020)

January 05, 2020

5W4htUpm6GwJkWfemfytV4-1024-80Happy New Year! Before you get back to work for real, check out our weekly roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Climate Change

To see what climate change could portend for ordinary Americans, look no further than California, where over the last decade, as the Los Angeles Times' Deborah Netburn writes, "[t]he wildfires were more destructive. The drought was the longest on record. And the storms, when they finally came, unleashed more water than [the] dams could contain."

Fundraising

Ready for another year of fundraising? Future Fundraising Now's Jeff Brooks wants to help and has pulled together a list of his favorite fundraising blogs

And fundraising expert Pamela Grow shares eleven things you can do to make 2020 your most successful fundraising year yet.

Giving

Nonprofit Chronicles blogger Marc Gunther shares the thinking behind the charitable donations he and his wife, Karen, made in 2019.

In an op-ed in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, nonprofit CEOs Alejandra Castillo, Susan Dreyfus, James Firman, Brian Gallagher, Gail McGovern, and Jonathan Reckford make the case that, after nearly two years of data, the evidence is clear: charitable giving is down, and changes in the 2017 tax law are to blame.

Global Health

There are only eight organizations on charity rating site GiveWell's list of top global charities and one of them is the San Jose-based Fistula Foundation. In a new post on the GiveWell blog, Catherine Hollander updates the organization's work on the foundation, which it continues to consider "a top charity contender."

Health

Commonwealth Fund president David Blumenthal (with research help from Gabriella Aboulafia) reviews the top developments in health care in 2019 on the fund's To The Point blog. 

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Most Popular PhilanTopic Posts in 2019

December 27, 2019

Happy-new-year-2020-red-text-background_1017-21971We're all living on Internet time these days, which is maybe why 2019 seemed to speed by in record time. Before we close the books on another year — and the decade of the teens — we thought it would be fun to look back at the most popular posts on the blog, as determined by your clicks, over the last twelve months. Included are oldies but goodies by Thaler Pekar, Nick Scott, Allison Shirk, and Gasby Brown; a couple of thirty-thousand-foot views of philanthropic giving by Larry McGill, Candid's vice president of knowledge services; new (in 2019) posts Jessica Johansen and NCRP's Aaron Dorfman; and a great review of Edgar Villanueva's Decolonizing Wealth by our colleague Grace Sato. From the team here at PND, best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

Interested in contributing to PND or PhilanTopic? We want to hear from you! Drop us a note at Mitch.Naufts@Candid.org.

Weekend Link Roundup (December 21-22, 2019)

December 22, 2019

48159486-boughs-of-holly-for-christmas-decorationWe're back with a special solstice edition of our roundup of noteworthy items from and about the social sector. For more links to great content, follow us on Twitter at @pndblog....

Animal Welfare

Marc Gunther continues his series of exposes of bad behavior in the animal rights field with a piece about Jenny Brown, the co-founder and former executive director of the Woodstock Farm Sanctuary in High Falls, New York.

Criminal Justice

In a post that originally appeared on the Heinz Endowments' blog, Heinz Endowment president and Center for Effective Philanthropy board chair Grant Oliphant examines some of the myths and fears behind the system of mass incarceration that has characterized American criminal justice for the last forty years.

Fundraising

With a handful of working days left in the year, lots of folks are feeling overwhelmed, panicky, and guilty. Instead of giving in to negative feelings, Kris Putnam-Walkerly tells her clients "to get clear on their top three priorities, block out time on their calendar to tackle their priorities, and get them done." It's good advice, she adds, any time of the year.

On the theory that good advice is better received late than never, check out Vu Le's sample annual appeal letter before you close the books on 2019.

Health

On the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Culture of Health blog, Monica Hobbs Vinluan looks at an RWJF-supported multi-state initiative that explores how programs and policies can be integrated to make it easier for all families to thrive.

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Brand Awareness and Your Nonprofit

December 19, 2019

BRAND-AWARENESSIn 2018, Smithsonian Magazine called March for Our Lives, a student-led mass demonstration against gun violence that took place In Washington, D.C., "the most powerful American youth movement in decades." In 2019, March for Our Lives and the movement it catalyzed could not be found among the top five movements of interest to young Americans in a nationally representative sample of eighteen- to thirty-year-olds (Influencing Young America to Act 2019).

The lesson? Never assume others know about your cause or the work you are trying to promote.

Why is awareness important?

As I often tell organizations, the challenge for cause and movement leaders is not to get constituents to regurgitate a brand statement that reinforces work they're already engaged in; it's to connect a cause to the "zeitgeist" in a way that makes it impossible to forget.

Put another way, the fundamental challenge for any cause leader is to help people understand why it's critical they pay attention to your issue — and to keep them paying attention.

The importance of awareness

It's often the case that our messaging doesn't bring new people to our organization or cause but instead builds loyalty among those who already support it. To bring new supporters to the cause, on the other hand, awareness of the issue is imperative.

Needless to say, the fact that the people with whom we work or who support our cause tend to be passionate about our issue can give us a false sense of its importance to the public. In addition, most of us live in filter bubbles that limit our information consumption to items we completely (or mostly) agree with and/or that are relevant to our work. Which is why we're often surprised when others don’t exhibit the same level of awareness of our issue as we think they should.

It makes sense, therefore, that awareness campaigns are at the top of most organizations' communications wish lists — and why so many organizations get "false positives" when they attempt to measure awareness of their issue or cause.

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Learning by Visiting: Marguerite Casey Foundation Board Meetings

December 12, 2019

Mcf_logoSunday morning began with a tour through Little Haiti, 3.5 square miles comprising the oldest neighborhood of people of Haitian descent in Florida — and one of the largest communities of Haitians in the United States. Riding in a long yellow school bus, Marguerite Casey Foundation board members listened to Boukman Mangones, a Haitian-American architect, speak about the fight to preserve Little Haiti's heritage and to combat the efforts of real estate developers who could displace the community.

Mangones was joined by Marleine Bastien, the founder and executive director of Family Action Network Movement (FANM), a Marguerite Casey Foundation grantee since 2016. Bastien met the board for the first time that day, in her home community, opening up her organization to ensure that funders know the struggles low-income Haitian families experience daily. When the bus tour ended, board members spent the afternoon in FANM's office — joined by four other grantees — grappling with many of the issues troubling the community, including gentrification, climate change, and immigration.

The Marguerite Casey Foundation works to help low-income families strengthen their voice and mobilize their communities in order to achieve a more just and equitable society for all. The foundation's quarterly board meetings remove "living in poverty" from the sterility of statistics. Since the foundation's founding in 2001, its board has developed a culture that is inquisitive, principled, and clear on priorities. The board understands that families know what is best for their communities and grantee organizations know best how to empower those families. The board sees its role as led by those closest to the issues. They learn by asking, listening, and then acting. That's why the founding board and leadership implemented on-the-ground board meetings starting in 2002, beginning with their first visit to grantee Community Coalition in South Los Angeles — which continues to receive significant, long-term general operating support from the foundation.

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The Best-Kept Secret: A Strategic ‘Pivot’

December 10, 2019

Greater-Denver-Jewish-Community-Study-2018-300x300There are countless examples of strategic "pivots" to point to in the for-profit world, many of them from the not-too-distant past. Remember when Amazon just sold books, when Netflix mailed DVDs, or when the Gap was a record store that sold Levi's? It's rare, on the other hand, to hear about nonprofits making the same kind of massive changes in strategy. Of course, taking a risk in Silicon Valley (where companies are expected to produce financial returns for their investors) is different than risk-taking in the nonprofit world, where organizations are responsible for having an impact on a social or environmental problem.

But pivoting — a shift in strategy that helps an organization achieve its desired impact — is crucial for nonprofits that want to succeed over the long-term. "Pivot" doesn’t have to be a bad word or signal failure. Think of it, instead, as a natural part of organizational evolution.

Pivots can be large or small, but they should emerge from a clear understanding of what is working and what is not. Using data (e.g., performance metrics, evaluations, and direct observation) to decide whether or not it's time to pivot will ensure that you pivot in the right direction. This kind of intentionality, coupled with the ability to admit what isn't working, makes a strategic pivot different than just throwing spaghetti against the wall and seeing what sticks.

Organizations that don't pivot eventually end up stuck doing the same old thing, even when evidence points them in another direction. In such a scenario, funders often start to wonder about their investment in a "stuck" organization and whether it's truly creating the impact they would like to see. To help nonprofits that are struggling with the pivot issue, as well as funders who may be sitting on the other side of the table, I wanted to share a story about a pivot made by my organization, UpStart, what we learned from it, and how you can benefit from the same kind of thinking and tactics.

UpStart's flagship initiative in Colorado was our Teen Fellowship program, which each year engaged twenty-four fellows in the fundamentals of social entrepreneurship through a Jewish lens. This program was a part of the larger Denver-Boulder Jewish Teen Initiative to increase engagement of diverse local Jewish teens. In the fellowship, teens worked in small teams to solve a particular problem in their respective communities, developing new initiatives and learning key skills that would help them navigate the world. The program was rated favorably by the teens who participated, but from an outcomes perspective it was becoming increasingly clear it was off-strategy.

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What It Takes to Manage Leadership Change in the Nonprofit Sector

December 05, 2019

ChangesEvery organization experiences leadership change. But these days, the nonprofit sector is experiencing a big demographic shift. Which is why it's essential for all nonprofits to start planning for the kind of thoughtful leadership transitions —including those resulting from both expected and sudden departures — any organization needs to survive and thrive.

According to the 2017 BoardSource report Leading With Intent, only 27 percent of nonprofits have a formal succession plan in place. That's unfortunate, because having such a plan in place can help any organization overcome the challenges and bumps in the road that almost always pop up in the wake of a leadership transition.

In the past, the process was commonly referred to "succession planning." However, that term often refers to identifying a successor for a specific leader and, in our view, has outgrown its usefulness. It's more helpful, instead, to think about the work of preparing for and managing leadership change as "intentional pathway planning," a more expansive term that serves as a reminder that leadership change involves much more than thinking about a single role or person; it's a holistic approach and lens that should be applied to every step of the hiring and onboarding process.

While every organization’s circumstances are different (involving things like leadership configuration, organizational goals, skills gaps, etc.), all nonprofits would be well-served to take a proactive approach to building a strong leadership pipeline, developing internal talent for higher-level roles, and making themselves aware of specific knowledge and/or diversity gaps that need to be addressed.

Tips for successful intentional pathway planning include:

Consider the big picture. A critical first step in intentional pathway planning is to understand your organization's leadership needs and mission-focused objectives. What are you trying to do? What type of talent will you need to get there? What are your organization’s knowledge gaps, and how can they be filled?

Plan and train. To ensure there's a robust pipeline of talent available to take advantage of future leadership opportunities, you need to proactively take steps to support talent. Provide employees with ample training and development opportunities — as well as continual mentoring and coaching — to help them learn, grow, and thrive. Check in with individual employees about their goals and aspirations, and then tailor development plans for them as appropriate. To ensure you have a deep bench of future leaders, allow staff at various levels to flex their leadership skills — and assume additional responsibilities. Such an approach is just as beneficial for the organization as it is for individuals on the receiving end of these training opportunities and can be pitched to job candidates as an organizational value proposition.

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We Must Act Now to End Students’ Basic Needs Insecurity — Together

December 03, 2019

Food insecurity on campusAs hundreds of thousands of students scramble to submit their college applications, many are thinking beyond the daunting cost of tuition and student fees to how they will pay for their everyday necessities once they've arrived on campus. With nearly half of college students at two- and four-year institutions experiencing food insecurity and more than half struggling with housing insecurity, it goes without saying that gaps in basic-needs provision are a major issue impacting today's college students — one that requires a systemic solution.

Examples of expenses that can derail a student's progression to a degree include emergency car repairs, rent increases, or a sudden illness. Such needs and emergencies often can be addressed, however, by immediate direct supports, including emergency-aid grants, food pantries, rapid rehousing services, and campus partnerships with community and government agencies aimed at ensuring students are supported throughout their academic journey.

Colleges are well positioned to be points of entry to a coordinated suite of social services for students. Working in tandem with community and government partners, colleges can use their own resources and design more student-centered services to cover students’ basic needs and keep them on track to their degrees.

For instance, in Washington state, the United Way of King County is working in partnership with local colleges to develop on-campus Benefits Hubs, which are designed to connect students to public benefits like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as well as community partners that can provide immediate resources and financial assistance for housing-related emergencies.

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Garifuna and the 2020 Census

December 02, 2019

Garifuna300Gilberto Amaya's career in international development has taken him to more than thirty countries, where he has implemented renewable energy systems, agribusiness projects, and poverty alleviation initiatives. Along the way, he witnessed the post-independence struggles of sovereign states whose names are rarely heard on nightly newscasts in the U.S. — Burkina Faso, Togo, Zambia, Zimbabwe. A native of Honduras, he has memories of blending into and being welcomed by communities in Africa, Asia, Europe, and Central and South America.

Yet, near his home in Fairfax, Virginia, a bureaucracy momentarily stripped him of his identity — and incident that sparked Amaya's quest to have "Garifuna" fully recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau.

"After conducting some public business at a government agency in Virginia," Amaya recalled, "I was leaving the counter, and the Latina clerk heard me speaking Spanish to my wife and called me back."

For ethnicity, Amaya had checked the box next to "black."

"You checked the wrong box," the clerk said. "You can't check black. You speak Spanish. You have to check Hispanic.' "

Today, Amaya is a member of the Census Bureau's National Advisory Committee on Racial, Ethnic and Other Populations (NAC), which solicits recommendations on ways to improve the accuracy of the decennial count in determining ethnic minorities, and is allied with other Garifuna organizations, scholars, and Afro-Latino advocates working to document the heritage and raise the visibility of the Garifuna people.

The Garifuna are descendants of Africans of mixed tribal ancestry who were captured and shipped from Africa to the Caribbean islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Garifuna historians recount on-board insurrections that ran ships aground. The captives escaped inland and intermarried with indigenous Carib and Arawak Indians, who were also subject to forced-labor bondage. Sometimes referred to as the Black Caribs, the Garifuna led and participated in the unsuccessful Carib Wars aimed at overthrowing British dominion, sometimes with assistance of France, England's imperial rival.
 
 

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Bias and Language in Behavioral Sciences Research and Analysis

November 25, 2019

Funder_biasIn our previous post, we discussed the principles of ethical research and the importance of disclosing funding sources. Now let's explore how you can avoid funder bias and why you should use inclusive language in your research and analysis.

Guard Against Funder and Other Biases

Just as reporters should be committed to objective journalism, behavioral scientists have the professional and moral obligation to conduct fair, unbiased research and analysis.

In the health services industry, research findings can educate funders, practitioners, and potential patients of the effectiveness of a new treatment or prevention regime and/or used to develop more effective programs.

Unfortunately, sometimes companies and institutions fund research with the expectation that the scientists doing the research will "steer" the study toward results that put the funder in a positive light.

To avoid funder bias, researchers should only participate in research projects where there is no pressure on them to coerce participants, design tests to generate positive results, or alter their conclusions. They also need to eliminate their personal beliefs and values, perceptions, and emotions from the study, so as not to produce a biased outcome. As a researcher, you have a responsibility to be honest and objective and not give colleagues or the scientific community a reason to distrust your work.

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